Self-esteem is crucial to having an empowered marriage. If you’re traveling through life and we all are, each one of us we experience, thoughts and feelings and moments and memories. They all go towards building our personality, our perceptions and our behaviours. These experiences, help make us who we are, they influence the way we see ourselves in the world. If we have positive experiences, they help us feel accepted and happy within ourselves. If we have negative experiences, they eat away at our confidence and self-worth, particularly the period between zero and seven. That time we are like little sponges and we take on absolutely everything.
It’s those negative experiences that make us believe there is something wrong with us. So, the view that we each have of ourselves, relates to our self-confidence and it does begin the moment we are born but particularly zero to seven.
When you have low self-esteem you’ve usually endured negative experiences during childhood also and possibly also as an adult, if you are constantly criticized, ridiculed or you’re ignored and this includes not getting your emotional needs meet. Perhaps you’ve been told that you cannot do things quickly or do things right. You begin to question your competency and adequacy. Let’s bring that back to marriage. Say for example you’re hanging the washing out and your partner comes out and starts to criticize you and has a go at how you’re hanging the washing out because it’s not the way that person would hang the washing out. You know, at the end of the day, what is right or what is wrong and when you are constantly criticized like that, over time you begin to doubt your abilities and you do develop a negative opinion of yourself. I have worked with hundreds and hundreds of people struggling in this way. This negative perception of yourself is commonly known as low self-esteem.
People with low self-esteem, they usually compare themselves to others. I have suffered with low self-esteem for a very large part of my life, so I know what I’m talking about. I’ve come out the other side and I have a healthy self-esteem now. However, it hasn’t always been the case. When you always think that things are going to go wrong, you’re so much in survival mode that life is just hard.
Here’s a list of what a person with high self-esteem looks like:
People with High Self-Esteem…
- Feel worthy to be loved and able to love others
- Are productive and able to achieve success to the best of their ability
- Recognise their potential for success
- Have aspirations, dreams and hopes for the future
- Are goal-oriented with a sense of balance
- Are capable of being creative, taking risks and being optimistic about life
- Have leadership qualities and are skilful with people
- Have a healthy self-concept and perceive themselves in alignment with the image they project to others
- Are able to accept responsibility for and, consequences of, their actions
- Have a legitimate concern for the welfare of others
- Have healthy coping skills
- Look to the future with excitement, a sense of adventure and optimism
If you agree with all of the statements, then you have high self-esteem. You may have ticked a couple of ‘disagree’ options and if you answer the same questions another time you may feel differently. Self-esteem can change daily, but the foundation is to know that you are special, worthy and lovable no matter what is happening in your outer world. This will then encourage and support an empowered marriage if you both have a healthy self-esteem.
If you don’t, if you disagree with some of these statements, then perhaps you need to look at your self-esteem because what we do particularly in marriage is to look outside of ourselves for our partner to fill our esteem up. However, that is not your partner’s job. It is your job is to fill your own esteem and I will talk a lot more about how you can fill your own esteem up in future blogs and podcasts.
Another angle or a way to identify if you have low self-esteem is asking yourself these questions:
- Do you currently feel as if you’re sitting in a tunnel of doom?
- Are you carrying around baggage that is painful and overwhelming?
- Are you critical of yourself and feel that you have little purpose or passion for life?
If you answer ‘yes’ to any of those questions, the chances are that you have low self-esteem.
Are you tired of feeling this way?
Do you want to look back at your life with regret?
Low self-esteem is debilitating and people who experience it prevent themselves from living a fulfilling, happy life and having an empowered marriage.
There is only one person who could ever make you happy, and that person is you.
I remember I was in my thirties and I got to that point where I had acknowledged that I had really low self-esteem. I needed to fill my own esteem up. I had always looked outside of myself or for my partner to do that. And, as I said, it’s not your partner’s job. So, it is actually making a decision to go, okay, I am going to fill my own esteem up, its my responsibility to make me happy and feel good.
I see it very similar to physical exercise. You cannot rely on anyone else to do it for you. Little by little as you begin to trust and have a self-belief in yourself as you put in the energy and work needed to fill your own self esteem. Future podcasts and blogs will be about how to fill your esteem up.
Self-esteem is closely linked to – Do you have an elephant in the living room?
It’s an expression and it means that as a couple in your marriage, you have a problem and neither of you are willing to face it.
Some examples could be:
- addiction like alcohol, smoking, drugs, porn or gambling
- parenting styles
- shopping problem
- intimacy and sex issues
- financial concerns
- want to move countries
If you’ve got an elephant in your living room, it’s about both of you looking at this, as it’s not going away. Both of you don’t know how to address the problem and what’s happening is that it’s often coming up in fights and disagreements and sometimes it gets quite nasty and quite vicious, but you’re not getting to the underlying cause as to why it’s coming up.
Sometimes things that have happened during our childhood, they have set us up for not being able to deal with issues. You may have watched your parents, they didn’t talk about concerns, or when you had issues coming up for you as a child, you were not able to speak about it because you weren’t sure what you were going to get back from your parents. Perhaps you would get criticism or anger, or you’d be shutdown, which is rejection. So, you may have learned from a very young age to keep inside what you’re feeling. However, this isn’t helping you as an adult.
Think about whether you have an elephant in your living room and what stops you from looking at it. What needs to happen for you to become ready?
Two qualities are needed to deal with the elephant in the living room:
- Courage to open up your heart to what may be extremely difficult for you and to take a step in a direction that you find difficult. Your concern about dealing with the issue may be that you don’t know how your partner will react and you are opening yourself up because you don’t know what will happen once you raise the issue. Courage is being willing to feel the fear and do it anyway.
- Commitment is needed from both partners to face whatever needs to be addressed in the relationship. Refusing to address something big in a relationship makes it impossible to have a deep, healthy and happy connection, an empowered marriage.
Counselling may be useful to support changes in behaviour and to work through conditioning strategies, patterns from the family of origin and to understand the masks that may be worn. Facing the elephant in the living room is a difficult process but moving through the fear will result in growth and healing, as well as a much closer empowered marriage or you may part ways.
I believe that if you are sitting with no passion or purpose or drive or motivation and you’re not in an empowered marriage what do you have to lose?